Morocco sen­tences 23 to prison over West Sa­hara killings

Muscat Daily - - REGION -

Ra­bat, Morocco - A Moroc­can court on Wed­nes­day sen­tenced 23 Sahrawis to prison terms rang­ing from two years to life over the killing of 11 mem­bers of the Moroc­can se­cu­rity forces in con­tested Western Sa­hara.

The ver­dict in the case, which has been closely fol­lowed by hu­man rights cam­paign­ers, was de­liv­ered at dawn by the Court of Ap­peals in Sale near Ra­bat, the of­fi­cial news agency MAP re­ported.

Morocco and the Al­ge­ri­abacked Polis­ario Front in­de­pen­dence move­ment have ac­cused each other of pro­vok­ing deadly clashes be­tween po­lice and Sahrawi pro­test­ers at a camp for dis­placed peo­ple in Gdeim Izik in Novem­ber 2010.

In 2013 a mil­i­tary court sen­tenced the de­fen­dants to jail terms rang­ing from 20 years to life im­pris­on­ment.

In­ter­na­tional rights groups con­demned that trial as ‘un­fair’ and in July the Court of Cas­sa­tion or­dered a civil­ian court to ex­am­ine the case.

The court is­sued its ver­dict af­ter 12 hours of de­lib­er­a­tions, is­su­ing sen­tences against 19 de­fen­dants rang­ing from 20 years to life. Four others were given lighter sen­tences but were not de­tained as they have al­ready served their time. The de­fence has ten days to ap­peal.

The killings took place on Novem­ber 8, 2010 as Moroc­can forces moved to dis­man­tle the Gdim Izik camp where thou­sands of Sahrawis were liv­ing.

Eleven se­cu­rity per­son­nel and two Sahrawi civil­ians were killed in the clashes that fol­lowed, which spread to the nearby city of Laay­oune where busi­nesses and pub­lic build­ings were looted and torched.

Dis­armed, some vic­tims had their throats cut or their dead bod­ies des­e­crated, ac­cord­ing to videos shot by the se­cu­rity forces.

Morocco says Western Sa­hara, a former Span­ish colony mostly con­trolled by Ra­bat, is an in­te­gral part of the king­dom.

The Polis­ario Front de­mands a ref­er­en­dum on self-de­ter­mi­na­tion for the ter­ri­tory.

Joint plea

Amnesty In­ter­na­tional and Hu­man Rights Watch this week is­sued a joint plea for the Moroc­can au­thor­i­ties to en­sure the ver­dict in the trial was not based on confessions or state­ments ‘ob­tained un­der tor­ture or other ill­treat­ment dur­ing po­lice in­ter­ro­ga­tions’.

The Moroc­can au­thor­i­ties have sought to un­der­line what they called the ‘ trans­parency’ and ‘fair­ness’ of the civil trial, which was open to the press and in­ter­na­tional ob­servers.

In May the de­fen­dants and their lawyers an­nounced they would no longer at­tend what they said was a ‘mock trial’.

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